As the Communist Party of China celebrates its 90th anniversary, David Bartram explains how it has navigated political and economic twists and turns to reach its dominant position today.   

Ninety years after its formation in a small building in Shanghai’s French concession, the Communist Party of China (CPC) presides over the world’s second largest economy and a country that will arguably have a greater impact on the 21st century than any other.

Only 13 delegates attended the first congress in Shanghai in July 1921; today the CPC is the world’s largest political party with around 80 million members. It is a transformation that few foresaw, only made possible by the CPC’s ability to adapt to changing circumstances.

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Few would have dared to predict the remarkable economic transformation China has undergone in the 30 or so years since Deng Xiaoping’s reforms opened the country to the world in 1978.   

That the Communist Party of China (CPC) not only survived the process, but thrived as the driving force behind market reforms that turned a country reeling in the aftermath of the “cultural revolution” (1966-76) into the second largest economy in the world is a remarkable feat of adaptability.

Martin Jacques, British academic and author of When China Rules the World, appreciates more than most the impact China’s economic miracle has had – and is still having – on the world.

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